Unfortunately, as the calendar turned, the virus didn’t magically disappear. The country didn’t unite, either. If anything, these first few weeks of 2021 have seen an increase in intensity in both.
Our country’s divide took a new and vicious turn as angry words and finger-pointing in the last few years escalated to the breaching of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Watching the surreal events unfold that day, I know that many in America—and the world—were shocked by the images and the thought that this isn’t the America we aspire to be.
Despite what we see in social media and the news, an immense majority of Americans—some calculate up to 45%—are moderate. Their ideology falls somewhere in the middle, no matter their party (versus the 25-30% of people on the extreme sides—liberal or conservative).
Most Americans are more alike than not. But it’s hard to see this through all the clutter these days. Today, the middle ground—and along with it, common sense—seems completely lost. Like our elected officials on opposite sides of the aisle, Americans are choosing to dig their heels in deeper than ever before. Each side refusing to compromise and no apparent desire to collaborate.
In business, differences of opinion can be a source of innovation and growth. However, that only works when those involved are willing to listen, ideate, and debate as a team to find the best solution for the industries and customers they serve. Companies that do this effectively are the most successful ones. Differences are good, they are healthy and can add value to a stronger solution - as long as they don’t collapse into a divided situation. America could take lessons from this approach.
Democracy is based on the sharing of ideas, and on finding a common place that benefits its citizens. We can work together, even if we disagree. As Americans, and as the “United” States of America, we must refuse to demonize our fellow people and focus on leading with care and respect for others.
Now, I don’t have an answer on how to bridge our political divides. However, I do know one simple truth… that treating each other with respect and talking like adults and ideating together can make a difference, and a positive step forward.
Martin Luther King Jr. said it better than I ever could. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
I am honored to be an American. It is my home. Our country is clearly not perfect, but I am confident that most of us are determined to do better and move America closer each day to what we aspire it to be. I believe that the Great American Experiment is a noble one, and I’m proud to play a part in it, even when I, too, find myself faltering. But I know there are those around me to help get me back on the positive path forward.
For centuries, American leaders have warned that a house divided cannot stand. It’s time we each first individually, and then collectively, remind ourselves that we are all Americans. We need to find the common ground inside us all to bridge our divides. To listen, to respect and to unify.
It’s up to all of us to come together as neighbors, families, businesses and fellow Americans to rediscover this place we call “Home.”